top of page

World Cities Day 2023: Working Towards Sustainable Inward Investment in Kenya’s Intermediary Cities

Intermediary cities with a population between 50,000 and one million people need a vibrant private sector that provides income and economic opportunities for its residents, the surrounding regions and their wider environment and society. SUED therefore focuses on helping 12 towns and cities across Kenya to get ready for investment, and to successfully close financial deals, so they can grow sustainably. In practice, this means working with the leadership of intermediary cities, with private sector investors, with financiers, facilitating a strong working relationship between the various parties so that tangible investments can be delivered that create real work impacts.

Championing sustainable urban development

In the pursuit of putting their names on the map to attract inward investment, Kenya’s intermediary cities have started to improve their urban functions and services, realising the need to demonstrate their urban competitiveness. Through SUED, we are supporting 12 intermediary cities to champion the prioritisation of a multi-faceted approach towards urban economic development.

To succeed, they need to have a robust strategy in place that demonstrates the value in:

  • expanding investment opportunities

  • ensuring urban efficiency and

  • optimising a strong public-private collaboration approach to enhance the competitiveness of intermediary cities.

This three-pronged approach has enabled SUED to assist previously excluded intermediary cities to access investors for enterprises that would not have been prioritised without the programme’s intervention. So far over £48m in public and private investment has been leveraged through SUED, with much more in the pipeline. Over 5,000 jobs have already been created, with another 20,000 due to be created as the investments already agreed are delivered, and again with thousands more due as other pipeline investments are confirmed.

In the western city of Iten, for example, the programme helped secure over £15 million (Ksh2.77 billion) in funding for their first ever agri-processing plant. The plant will begin to process 60,000 tonnes of Irish and sweet potatoes annually and scale up to 100,000 per annum in five years. It will create over 5,000 jobs in terms of the specific plant employees and the wider farmer supply chain.

Transforming economies through strong working relationships

The investment has been a partnership between a private investor – Select Fresh Produce Kenya, the UK Government through the SUED programme and the County Government of Elgeyo Marakwet through Iten Municipality. SUED paved the way for the investment by demonstrating the viability of the investment opportunity. This included the development of an intermediary specific Urban Economic Plan (UEP) as well as a pre-feasibility study for the project and the technical assistance provided to both the private sector and County. Our efforts ensured that the proposed financial model would work within the local context. The programme further provided a seed fund of £735,000 (Ksh132.2 million).

“I’m happy to co-launch this processing plant project in Iten together with the UK Government. By having in place a potato processing plant, we will reach people at all levels. Elgeyo Marakwet economy is 95% reliant on agriculture and has never had a value chain project to offtake agricultural produce. But that has changed now – it will make our economy stronger. I know that we will be able to transform the economies of people and half the poverty levels in Iten.”

The benefits of this cooperation will reach people far beyond the urban area where the processing plant is based, creating jobs, diversifying incomes for locals and reaching small holder farmers across the region. By establishing an industry that adds value to the economy of Iten, SUED played a critical role in helping the city become more competitive. And what is more, the domino effect of this financial development will further attract other sector specific investors into its urban centre.

Cities do not just need finance to provide a sustainable urban future for all – World Cities Day also reminds us that collaboration is just as important to facilitate investments that drive healthy, green and prosperous urban development – in Kenya and everywhere.


bottom of page